A number of things came together one April night in 2001. Over the past two years, I became reacquainted with a high school friend who had become a professional musician. She had told me some of what had happened over the intervening years, including a failed marriage to a man who could best be described as a psychopath. That part of her story was very much on my mind that rainy spring night.
I had just finished the outline to Northcoast Shakedown and wanted to get a few short stories written to flesh out Nick Kepler. I’d written a couple already – “Race Card” and “Valentine’s Day,” but one was out with an editor (Gerald So, the first interaction of what became a long friendship), the other in dire need of a rewrite. But while thinking about my friend and that dark chapter of her past, I had a WWNKD moment. (“What Would Nick Kepler Do?”)
I had to run out to the Kroger around the corner. I walked. It was the cliched “dark and stormy night,” though the storm had blown through already, leaving everything damp and gleaming. On the way back, I imagined Nick walking down a deserted stretch of highway near Cleveland. I thought of a suburb called North Royalton and how Route 3 into Brunswick, another suburb, is pretty much a country road. So why would Nick be walking along the highway?
Sarcastically, I thought he might have stuffed my friend’s ex-husband into a car crusher. But Nick is not a murderer. But would he cover up a murder? I started writing about 8 that evening. I finished up shortly before midnight with 5000 or so words. It was one of those white heat moments writers live for.
I waited a couple of days, went over it one more time, and cast about for a place to submit. I wanted to send it to Blue Murder, but they were “on hiatus” (ie – on life support). So they were out. Thrilling Detective had “Race Card” and I had yet to investigate Nefarious, Judas, and a couple other web zines that have since shuffled off the cyber coil. Then I found Plots With Guns. They had just started up and wanted stories around 5000 words or less. It had to be dark. And it had to have a gun. Angie Warren, Nick’s childhood friend, killed her boyfriend with the gun he’d come to shoot her with. Dark and gun? Check. Off it went to Neil Smith for perusal.
He took it with very few changes requested. Ladies and gentlemen, Jim Winter was in the game.
“A Walk in the Rain” is still one of my favorites. Of the Keplers, it’s right up there with “Full Moon Boogie.” I’ve seldom had a story come together so fast and not require a lot of work on the back end. “A Walk in the Rain” was a rarity.